Most people who attend a gym aspire to have a flatter tummy or want the elusive ‘Six-Pack’. However, most people struggle to burn the unwanted fat around their middle and create clearly defined abdominals. This is the first of a five-part series of top tips to help you flatten your abs…forever Each week we will be providing you with two more top tips that will enable you to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing midrift and develop a functionally strong core.
The underling ethos here is ‘balance’ and sustainability. By taking a ‘whole’ approach and learning how to balance your diet, your exercise and your lifestyle you can boost your metabolism, develop and condition your lean muscle mass, burn unwanted body fat, create a better muscular definition and body shape, have robust health and keep yourself looking good on the outside and feeling great on the inside
Whole Health = Exercise + Nutrition + Lifestyle
It’s not all about sit ups or exercise. Contrary to popular belief, creating or sculpting a defined, better looking body is more about nutrition than people are led to believe (and I’m not just talking calories here – I’m talking about nutrients). Remember, you are what you eat. So just eat real food, rich in real nutrients in their natural state. Avoid anything that has been denatured or processed by food manufacturers because ‘food-like products’ that the body doesn’t actually recognize as real nutrients simply stress your body which can lead to you falling out of balance and into ‘survival mode’ - meaning your body will hold on to its fat stores. Stick to wholefoods only i.e. anything that nature provides that has NOT been altered by someone in a laboratory or a factory by adding artificial ingredients such as sweeteners, flavouring, colouring, or anything else that extends shelf-life or keeps people buying their product (e.g. preservatives, pasteurization, removal of fat etc). These artificial additives are often toxic synthetic chemicals that essentially stress the body, namely the digestive, immune and detoxification systems causing inflammation or bloating that just hides your abs and causes you to hold onto fat. As a rule of thumb; if a product contains ingredients that you can’t pronounce – Don’t eat it ! In order to be able to see your abs you need to be able to burn fat and therefore you need to pay close attention to your blood-sugar levels. When blood sugar is too high, your body produces insulin, and when insulin levels increase your body stops burning fat as fuel. You also need to boost your metabolism and in order to do that you’ll need to strengthen your muscles (which will also help with blood-sugar management). To strengthen your muscles you’ll need the right nutrients in the right proportions for your body. Eat a balanced diet including a wide variety of proteins (fresh meat, fish and legumes), carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables and wholegrains) and good fats (oils, nuts, seeds and dairy). Go Organic, grass fed, free range whenever possible. As well as controlling the quantity of food you eat, focus on the quality of your nutrients too. This also applies to water, the most important nutrient.
As mentioned earlier, to see your abs you’ll need to burn off any excess fat. To burn more fat you’ll need to boost your metabolism so that your body consumes more energy. To boost metabolism you’ll need to develop muscle and to develop muscle you’ll need to stimulate the muscles with exercises at the gym or by playing a sport. For the biggest bang for buck, and therefore the biggest impact on your metabolism and quantity of fat burnt, primarily train the largest muscle groups by using a variety of full-body, compound movement exercises at least 2 to 3 times per week. Try to train movements instead of muscles, focusing on the 7 primal movement patterns; squat, push, bend, pull, lunge, twist and gait which are the movements humans have performed throughout our evolution and include all the major muscle groups. By training, stimulating and developing muscle your body will have to replenish, repair and regenerate the muscle fibers which increases the demand placed upon your body causing it to consume more energy (namely fat) as fuel.
A common mistake people make is to do lots of cardio and just target the abs but this only really works a handful of muscles which soon become over-trained leading to postural problems, fatigue and ultimately a lack of results. Unfortunately the whole idea of just needing to do sit ups to burn fat around the middle is untrue – your body will only burn fat from the areas it deems appropriate and this is generally dictated to us by our own hormonal balance. One reason people tend to accumulate more fat around their middle is due to a hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone we produce in response to any form of excessive stress or load placed upon our body so in order to keep your fat around your belly to a minimum, try to avoid placing your body under too much stress caused by physical factors (injury, poor posture, insufficient recovery, under or over training, excessive blood-sugar levels or insulin), nutritional factors (such as toxic chemicals used in processed foods, alcohol, toxic chemicals used in commercial farming processes, too much or too little food) and lifestyle factors (i.e. mental-emotional stress caused by relationships, workload, finances or any other stressor which causes depression, anxiety, worry, anger or guilt)
Next week, we’ll be discussing the importance of having a healthy digestive system and good posture in order to ‘flatten your abs…forever’